Police who watched on as terrorist Usman Khan was shot to death on London Bridge said they were “flabbergasted” he remained alive despite a volley of gunfire.
Firearms officers and a police control room commander said they were astonished Khan had not succumbed earlier to one of the 20 shots fired at his head and body during two spells, eight minutes apart.
In his final moments, the Fishmongers’ Hall terrorist went from writhing around on the floor to sitting bolt upright, before turning his head and staring towards armed police who unleashed a volley of gunfire.
It was at this point that Khan, 28, appeared to check his forehead for the wound before slumping to the ground, where he continued to make some small movements before eventually falling still.
He was declared dead roughly an hour later after the scene was made safe.
Giving evidence to the inquest into Khan’s death on Friday, an officer known only as AZ99 to protect his identity recalled how he shot the suspect four times in the second period of gunfire, but was in disbelief Khan had not died.
AZ99 said: “He did fall back after one shot.
“Quite surreal – he put his hand towards his head, he pulled his hand away to look for blood.
“All I could think was: ‘Why aren’t you dead?’.”
A tactical firearms commander, who was watching the scene play out on a gigantic screen in his control room, said he could scarcely believe what he was seeing.
The officer, known as WA30, said: “I was flabbergasted that the man had been shot numerous times and it took a while for him to cease moving.
“Eventually – very slowly, nothing like you see in the movies – he ceased moving.”
The commander said he was “in a cold sweat” as he watched Khan, appearing to be wearing a viable suicide belt, rolling about on London Bridge as people still milled around on the footpath below, and with officers and the public in close proximity.
He said: “I could hear my own heartbeat, I was sweating profusely, my mouth went so dry. I really thought I was going to see numerous people murdered by the detonation of that device.”
He added: “It was like watching a slow motion car crash.
“I was squinting at the monitor thinking he would detonate that at any moment – thinking he would kill my officers, the public as well.
“The only thing we could do was a critical shot. We had to neutralise the subject.”
AZ99 said he opened fire because he was concerned Khan was reaching for a suicide belt, which was wrapped about his waist.
He told the inquest: “At that point there, I thought: ‘We’re dead’.
“This was the first movement he did that was an action rather than a reaction.
“It felt like a defined movement of: I’m now going to do something to you.”
Khan was in central London on November 29 2019 after being invited to attend an event by prison education charity Learning Together at Fishmongers’ Hall.
Police believe he travelled down by train from his home in Stafford with the fake suicide belt already strapped around his waist, while his bag contained kitchen knives bought in the days before the attack.
He stabbed Jack Merritt, 25, and Saskia Jones, 23, at the Learning Together event before being chased from the venue.
Khan had been released from prison less than a year earlier, having served an eight-year jail term for plotting a terrorist training camp in his parents’ homeland of Pakistan.
The inquest continues.
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